Description: Box Turtles are mid-sized, terrestrial
turtles 4.5-6 in (11.5-15.2 cm) with a high,
rounded shell that is dark with many yellow or orange splotches.
The carapace pattern is variable and becomes less prominent with
age. There are four toes on each hind foot. Males have a concave
plastron and often have red eyes. The plastron (bottom of the
shell) is hinged, allowing the box turtle to completely close
Range and Habitat: Box turtles are found throughout the
eastern United States. They are found in a variety of habitats
but are most common in open hardwood forest in the Piedmont. They
are often found along field or wetland edges. Highly terrestrial
but will occasionally be found soaking in puddles or streams.
Habits: With the exception of the Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus
polyphemus), this is the most terrestrial turtle in our region.
They are most commonly encountered after summer rain storms and
in the fall when males actively search out females. Box turtles
are omnivorous and eat mushrooms, berries, grapes, persimmons,
and other fruits. Although adults are mainly herbivorous, few
will turn down a juicy worm, slug, or insect. Box turtles have
a low metabolic rate, which allows them to survive during times
when food is scarce. These animals are long-lived (certainly reaching
50 years old or more) and take over 5 years to reach maturity.
After a single mating, females can retain eggs and lay them years
later. Young box turtles are extremely secretive and are seldom
Conservation Status: Box turtles are considered common
and are protected in our region.
Penick, D.N., J. Congdon, J.R. Spotila, and J.B. Williams. 2001.
Microclimates and energetics of free-living box turtles, Terrapene
carolina, in South Carolina. Physiological and Biochemical
Account Author: Emily Rogers, University of Georgia -
edited by J.D. Willson
hatchling eastern box turtle